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updated: 2/21/2013 8:20 PM

Slain Aurora teen hit 7 times with hammer, reports show

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  • Abigail Villalpando

      Abigail Villalpando

  • Jose Becerra

      Jose Becerra

  • Juan Garnica

      Juan Garnica

  • Enrique Prado

      Enrique Prado

  • A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.

      A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Not long before she was to start her shift as a waitress on Jan. 31, Aurora detectives claim, Abigail Villalpando met with two male friends to hang out at a home on the 400 block of Jefferson Street on the city's east side.

One of the companions, Juan Garnica, asked the 18-year-old West Aurora High School senior to look at a dead turtle in the home's aquarium.

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As she bent down and peered into the tank, Garnica hit her in the head with a hammer seven times, the detectives say. He then rolled up her body in a blanket, storing it in a blue container in the rafters of his friend's garage, they say.

Those are among numerous details contained in a search warrant obtained by Aurora detectives investigating the city's first murder since late 2011, a crime for which no motive has been detailed. The warrant also said the other man, Enrique Prado, told detectives: "Juan struck her twice in the head with a hammer he had in his possession. As (Abigail) fell to the ground, Juan struck her five more times with the hammer.

"After the strikes with the hammer, Juan checked (Abigail) for signs of life by attempting to feel for a pulse on her wrist. Juan advised Enrique that no pulse was located and retrieved a blanket."

Garnica, 18, and Prado, 19, are accused of burning Villalpando's body and dumping her charred remains in a wooded area near Oswego. Jose Becerra, 20, of Oswego, is accused of helping them as well.

Bloody clothes

Police have recovered the hammer, the blue container, and from it a clump of black 3-inch-long hair that is believed to be Villalpando's. They also have Garnica's blood-stained clothes and his work gloves that Prado says were used while disposing of the body, according to the search warrant.

Garnica faces first-degree murder and arson charges. He is due in court Friday; he appeared briefly in court last Thursday, where Kane County Judge James Hallock told Garnica he faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Villalpando's parents and grandmother attended the hearing and declined to comment afterward.

According to the search warrant, police began investigating Villalpando's disappearance Feb. 1 when she didn't show up for work as a restaurant server at 5 p.m. Jan. 31.

Villalpando's brother told authorities that she normally hung out with Prado and Garnica, so police took them in for questioning.

Prado's girlfriend also took police to the garage of the home on Jefferson Street, where they noticed a strong gasoline smell and blue container in the garage rafters with char marks inside of it. They immediately sought a search warrant.

While at the station, Garnica denied any involvement and asked for a lawyer.

But Prado, according to the search warrant, told police what happened beginning with the attack near the aquarium.

After Villalpando's body was hidden in the rafters, Prado told police that he picked up Garnica -- who was clad in black and had a red gas can -- from his home on the 400 block of East Ashland Avenue the morning of Feb. 1, records show.

Prado drove to Lebanon Park in Aurora where Garnica stole a metal garbage barrel and put it in the rear of Dodge Durango that Prado was driving, according to the search warrant. They also bought gasoline, according to a surveillance tape at the gas station.

The pair put Villalpando's body and some wood in the barrel and burned it in Prado's backyard, the warrant stated. While the fire burned, the pair went to dispose of Villalpando's car with Garnica setting it on fire under a railroad overpass and Prado acting as the getaway driver, the warrant states.

Call disrupts burning

As the barrel was burning, Villalpando's brother called Garnica and said he was calling police on them because he suspected them in Abigail's disappearance, the warrant said.

"According to Enrique, the two began to extinguish the barrel in fear that the police were in route (sic). The contents of the barrel were placed into a Rubbermaid container and stowed in the garage," the search warrant states.

The pair later called Becerra for help because he had a pickup truck. Prado told police the three dumped the remains near a wooded area near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue near Montgomery, and sheriff's deputies later found her body there Feb. 2, the search warrant said.

Prado is charged with arson and concealment of a homicide, but not murder. The most serious of the felonies is the arson charge, which carries a prison term of up to seven years if convicted.

Prado was in court last week and is next due before a judge April 11.

Prado's defense attorney, Richard Irvin, declined to comment Tuesday.

Police also have obtained court orders to search the memory cards, text message logs and calls made on cellphones for Garnica and Prado, records show.

Villalpando's phone has not been found. Police also received permission to take a DNA sample from Garnica, according to a search warrant.

Becerra is charged with concealment of a homicide. He faces up to five years in prison, if convicted. He is next due in court on Feb. 27.

All three defendants are being held at the Kane County jail while their cases are pending.

Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said the department does not comment on ongoing cases; prosecutors have declined to comment on a motive for the crime.

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